The Government is facing the threat of strikes by nurses in protest at years of below inflation pay rises.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing voted overwhelmingly to support a ballot for industrial action. Another ballot would have to be held before any action is taken.
In the consultative ballot, nine out of 10 voiced support for action short of a strike while almost four out of five backed strikes.
More than 50,000 of the RCN'S members took part in the ballot.
The RCN'S annual conference in Liverpool today will discuss the next move..
The RCN has warned that low levels of pay are partly responsible for tens of thousands of unfilled nursing posts.
Nurses have suffered a 14% pay cut in real terms since 2010 because of a government cap on public sector pay, said the RCN.
A formal pay cap of 1% was introduced in 2015.
RCN general secretary Janet Davies has warned that years of pay cuts have left nurses struggling to make ends meet.